DURHAM, N.C. – Almost a week after the top-ranked Blue Devils opened the season with two victories, the Duke women’s soccer team (2-0) is set to kick off the Nike Carolina Classic this weekend in Chapel Hill, N.C. Duke is slated to play the University of Montreal in an exhibition match on Aug. 24, followed by a matchup with 21st-ranked Florida on Aug. 26 at Fetzer Field on UNC’s campus.
On Friday, the Blue Devils will kick off against the Carabins (0-0) at 5:00 p.m. The Blue Devils have never played the Montreal before, however head coach Robbie Church knows it will be a tough match.
“They are a very good team and are very well coached,” Church commented on Montreal. He continued to explain that because the game is an exhibition and will not count towards their overall season record, it “will probably provide us a chance to play some more people then maybe at this time of year we’d play. We will have to coach the game as the game goes along and see where we can get some experience with some of the younger players.”
On Sunday, Duke is slated to take on the 21st ranked Florida Gators (0-1) at 1:00 p.m. The Gators are coming off a strong 2011 season in which they went 17-8 and made it to the finals of the SEC Tournament; however, in their 2012 home opener, Florida struggled against Miami in a 4-1 loss on Aug. 17. Duke is 3-5-2 all-time against the Gators, including a 2010 NCAA Tournament second round meeting that saw Duke win 4-2 in penalties to advance to the round of 16 in Gainesville, Fla.
“We have great respect for Florida,” Church explained. “Their coaching staff, they do a great job. They are a national power year in and year out and they are in a place that we are trying to get to being that power year in and year out.”
In the latest national rankings, the Blue Devils are No. 1 in the Soccer America Poll and No. 2 in the NSCAA ledger. Florida is listed 20th in the Soccer America poll and 16th by SoccerTimes.com.
“We are really looking forward to playing that game,” Church continued. “It will really be a step up in the competition that we have had up to this point, and how do we respond to that, how do we respond to a short turnaround from a Friday at night to an early Sunday afternoon.”
Coming off eight points over the weekend against Elon and 20th-ranked William & Mary, Blue Devil redshirt junior Kim DeCesare was named the Disney Soccer/NSCAA National Player of the Week, ACC Player of the Week and to the TopDrawerSoccer.com Team of the Week. A total of seven different Blue Devils scored goals in the opening weekend with DeCesare and junior Laura Weinberg leading the way with three tallies each. Duke has outscored its opponents by a 12-1 ledger.
During a Wednesday press conference, Church was asked how his team was dealing with so many preseason accolades including being ranked in the top two in major polls, being the favorite to win the ACC, and having a number of players being honored as All-America’s and Player of the Year candidates.
“We train hard, we play hard and we expect a lot out of training,” Church said. “We have spent very little time if any time talking about national rankings. We are making each other better in training; we are making each other better in games. The only way you are going to get on the field in our program is by playing hard, and by being aggressive and everybody is doing that right now.”
Last year in the UNC Nike Classic, the Blue Devils downed Houston (2-0) and top-ranked Notre Dame (3-1), which keyed a season that featured a NCAA College Cup appearance and an ACC regular season title. Over the last two years, Duke is 3-1 in the UNC Classic with its lone loss coming to second-ranked Stanford, 2-1.